16 October 2009

Less is more

Early in our marriage, I decided that despite the fact that I'd been told many times that my head was full of rocks, my experience with myself was consistent with my being a super-genius. And using the now-popular tactic that saying something often enough makes it true, I made sure I told Karen of my super-geniosity whenever it was convenient for me. Which was often.

All of that changed on an airline flight. I was flying alone in the pre-ipod era, and being a super-genius, I'd forgotten to bring anything productive, or even fun, to read. So I was left with the airline's in-flight magazine. Yadda yadda yadda "Kansas as the next great travel destination," yadda yadda yadda "amazing new kelp diet," yadda yadda yadda "are you a genius?", yadda yadda yadda... hold on there, "are you a genius?" Hell yeah, and I'd been looking for proof. All I had to do was take the 20-question test and add up the score. Piece of cake-- I've always tested well. It was a mix of logic questions and some deliberately seemingly-easy-but-there's-a-trick puzzle questions. I forget what the time limit on the test was (this was serious business), but I finished early. Looking good.

Found the answers in the back of the magazine and checked my score. Yup, yup, yup, got that one, yup, yup... I knew it was going to be a piece of cake. I was killing it. Until number 14. Got #14 wrong. Got it wrong by making a dumb mistake. That was the only one I missed.

And it cost me. If I'd gotten them all right, I'd have earned the title of super-genius. As it was, I was only a genius-plus-plus. I thought about the circumstances. I'd just made a silly careless error. A dumb mistake I'd have caught anywhere but on an airplane. I was sure of it. I may not be a super-genius, but I wasn't a cheater, either. It's one thing to be certain of being a super-genius with no evidence to the contrary, but to ignore the results of an airline publication-approved IQ test would be recklessly irresponsible, an insult to the publication and to real super-geniuses, alike.

It was hard to handle the disappointment. To have the bedrock of your entire belief system revealed as fraud is hard. To have it happen 30,000 feet in the air, without access to your emotional support network, is devastating. Somehow I made it to my destination. And being an honest not-super-genius, I told Karen right away. She tried to make me feel better: "genius-plus-plus is still pretty good." Yeah, but it doesn't roll off the tongue, does it.

I've moved on in the many years since then, aside from the occasional nightmare revisiting the flight, usually right around performance evaluation time. I think I've grown.

What does this have to do with Paris? Well, shortly before flying to Italy, I bought a bathroom scale. The airlines are so fussy about baggage weights these days, and the penalties are so high, especially if your bags have bikes in them and so switch from "personal luggage" category to the "sporting equipment" category if you're a gram over the limit, that we decided it was worth the 25 eurobucks to know exactly what could go in which bag. We did a superb job of packing. We were half a kilo under on each bag going and even managed to remember what went into which bag on returning. Even the evil check-in people were impressed.

As long as we had the scale, I decided to weigh myself. And to my surprise, after the most frustrating year of riding and by a wide margin the year of largest wine consumption in my life, my weight was down essentially to racing weight. Hmm. Returning from Italy, where we eat a lot, it was a kilo less, yet. Double hmm.

The weird thing is that I don't think I'm that skinny. I've been really lean before, and I'm definitely not race-lean. So if I'm not skinny but I weigh less, what's going on?

The answer is obvious-- I've gotten smarter. If my body isn't different, it must be my head that's lighter: my head has fewer rocks in it. And that loss of rocks must mean I'm smarter. Which can only mean, after all of these years, that I'm finally really a super-genius.

All I need it an airline publication IQ test to prove it.

Which is why I'm taking the train from now on.

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